A Guide To Exploring Modern-Day Oregon Trails

The Oregon Trail

150 years ago, it was an epic struggle. Today, it's a weekend drive.

Follow historic footsteps along the Oregon Trail from the state's eastern border to the Trail's official end in Oregon City. As part of the 150th anniversary of the famous 1843 migration, 43 historic and scenic points of interest are detailed in a self-guided tour brochure available from the Oregon State Tourism Division.

Oregons Eastern Gateway: At the Oregon-Idaho border, leave I-84 at the Ontario exit to follow Hwy. 201 to the site of the Snake River crossing south of Nyssa. Follow the Oregon Trail signed county roads to Keeney Pass. Here you can view deep wagon ruts and follow the route of the trail to the Malheur River. In Vale, the Stone House was built in 1872 and served as a hotel, post office and store. Depart from the actual route of the Oregon Trail, as you follow Hwy. 20/60 to Ontario, and continue west on I-84 to Farewell Bend State Park. Here you can envision the emigrants leaving the Snake River, pulling up the first of many long hills and ascending the dreaded Burnt River Canyon.

Baker City and Flagstaff Hill: Here, the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, managed by the BLM, is open daily with a complete re-creation of life along the Trail. From powerful interactive exhibits to century-old ruts you'll re-live history. For a spectacular side trip, take the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway for a view of North America's deepest river gorge.

Crossing the Blue Mountains: As you drop into the Grande Ronde Valley near LaGrande, you leave the sagebrush plains behind. An artistic memorial plaza at Birnie Park in LaGrande conveys the pioneer experience in this area, known to the Indians as “The Valley of Peace.” Continue west on I-84 to the Spring Creek exit, and travel 2.5 miles on paved road to the Blue Mtn. Crossing. Here, pioneers welcomed the shade of pine and fir trees, and cursed the rocks. This Forest Service site offers gallery-quality interpretation as you view traces of the Oregon Trail.

North to the Columbia River: Follow I-84 along the Trail through the rich Umatilla Valley into historic Pendleton, and west to Echo, crossing the Umatilla River at Fort Henrietta Park. Rest areas, interpretive signs and visible ruts abound. The highway diverges from the Trail but parallels its course, with side routes via Hwy. 207/74 through Ione and Arlington to see Well Springs, Four Mile Canyon and other historic points.

Following the River Route: Cross the Deschutes and reach The Dalles. Here, emigrants chose between rafting down the Columbia or taking the rugged Barlow Road route around Mt. Hood. Museums and historic displays tell of the difficult decision. History continues to unfold as you travel to Hood River, and on to Cascade Locks where the pioneers were forced to leave the river and portage their goods, long before the rapids were quieted by today's dams. Finally, river travelers arrived exhausted at Fort Vancouver, where they crossed the river to travel into the Willamette Valley.

The Barlow Road: Imagine the choice. Just east of The Dalles, take Hwy. 197 south to Dufur, Tygh Valley, Wamic and around Mt. Hood - the alternate, grinding passage forged in 1845 by Samuel Barlow and Joel Palmer. Visit the Pioneer Woman's Grave near Government Camp, where several hiking trails lead to historic sites. Continue through Rhododendron and see a replica of the original tollgate that marked the final segment of this alternate toll road, in operation from 1846 to 1919. Finally, reach Wildwood and view the ruts left by pioneers near the Sandy River. In Sandy, Jonsrud Viewpoint overlooks the terrain of the Barlow Road from Mt. Hood to Sandy.

On to Oregon City: Travel to Eagle Creek to visit Foster Farm, the last stop for many pioneers before reaching the end of the Oregon Trail. Then visit Baker Cabin near Carver, the only cantilevered pioneer log cabin in Oregon. Finally, enter Oregon City, where after 2,000 miles and five months, pioneers found the end of the Trail at Avernethy Green. Interpretive displays and exhibits commemorate the site.

For a copy of the self-guided Oregon Trail tour, visit chambers of commerce along the route, or contact Eastern Oregon Visitors Association, 490 Campbell St., Baker City, OR 97814, 1-800/523-1235. Or contact the Oregon Tourism Division, 775 Summer Street NE, Salem, OR 97310. 1-800/547-7842

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